Gail Bowen

Gail Bowen

Born Gail Bartholomew in Toronto in 1942, she learned to read by age three from tombstones in Prospect Cemetery, a facility that was extremely useful when she was struck by polio two years later. She was educated at the University of Toronto (B.A.), University of Waterloo (M.A.), and the University of Saskatchewan, where she almost completed a PhD After a series of extension-course teaching contracts in small-town locations across Saskatchewan and a ten-year sessional stint with the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, University of Regina, she was granted tenure in the English department of the university in 1986, one year before the publication of 1919; the love letters of George and Adelaide, a novella written in collaboration with Ron Marken. She recently retired as associate professor at the First Nations University of Canada.

Bowen has had four plays produced at Regina’s Globe Theatre — Dancing in Poppies (in 1993), an adaptation of 1919; Beauty and the Beast (in 1993); The Tree (in 1994); and an adaptation of Peter Pan (in 1997). Manitoba Theatre for Young People chose her adaptation of Peter Pan as its 2000 Christmas production. The Grand Theatre in London Ontario presented Dancing in Poppies in October 2002 and Peter Pan as its Christmas production in 2003. Bowen’s adaptation of Doctor Dolittle was broadcast on CBC Radio in April 2006 and at Christmas 2006, and a University of Regina Theatre production played in Moose Jaw and Regina. Bowen’s radio play the world according to Charlie D. was broadcast on CBC’s Showcase in October 2006. Her play Saving Lonesome George will be produced by Persephone Theatre in March 2008.

Bowen has received widespread acclaim for her detective series featuring Joanne Kilbourn, a fictional character who has much in common with her creator. Both are teachers at Saskatchewan universities, sometime TV panelists, and each has several children and a politically connected husband. In Bowen’s case the husband is Ted Bowen; the children are Hildy (34), Max (32), and Nat (27). Gail also has four miraculous grandchildren: Madeleine and Alejandra Bowen Diaz; Benjamin Bowen-Bell and Peyton Benjamin Bowen. The ten books in the series (Deadly Appearances, 1990; Murder at the Mendel, 1991; The Wandering Soul Murders, 1992; A Colder Kind of Death, 1994, winner of a Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award; A Killing Spring, 1996; Verdict in Blood, 1998; Burying Ariel, 2000, The Glass Coffin, 2002, The Last Good Day, 2004, and The Endless Knot, 2006) offer challenging puzzles and motives with a fair sprinkling of clues. The eleventh novel in the series, The Brutal Heart, will appear in August 2008. So popular have these novels been that Deadly Appearances, Murder at the Mendel, The Wandering Soul Murders, A Colder Kind of Death, A Killing Spring and Verdict in Blood have appeared as made-for-television movies, and The Glass Coffin has been optioned for development. But it is the added elements of the books with which her readers empathize: complex family interactions alongside every-day domestic details, prairie urban life and work, the ever-present prairie weather, and the realistic and dimensional portrayal of contemporary Indigenous peoples.

— July 2007